Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the Boring Side of Normal


Every now and then when I begin to rue to somewhat sameness of life here in mid-America, I find just enough reason to welcome the same-old, same-old. My experience at the park in Chicago over the weekend was one such reason, and now I find even more. It seems that just as I get some kind of wanderlust thing percolating in my brain, reality comes 'round to say, "Dude, seriously, rethink this!" To wit:
It has recently been announced that in the past two years more than $12,000 in funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families has been withdrawn from ATM machines conveniently located in...strip clubs in Los Angeles! I guess it makes sense in a way: lap dancers don't usually take plastic (I'm told). Apparently, Californians in need of welfare assistance are given debit cards with which they can extract actual money for food, clothing, and medical expenses for themselves and their children. Only certain ATM machines will process requests from these over half the casinos and poker rooms in California in addition to the aforementioned naughty places.
And speaking of naughty places, actors and actresses in the adult film industry in California are protesting the latest ruling which requires the use of condoms in every movie. Their opinion is that monthly STD screenings are sufficient, and if one is squeamish about the lack of protection, he or she is too much of a sally to be in the industry anyway. So there. But stories from the LA Times are not alone in protecting me from wanderlust.
Apparently, the president of Nigeria has suspended the country's entire soccer team because they did not win a game in the latest World Cup competition, the "highlight" being a tie with the Korean team. Seriously, that's all the president of that country has to worry about? I've never been there to argue that point, but I would guess there are more pressing issues. And, of course, FIFA claims that such political action might well disqualify the team from the next international competition in which teams vie to be crowned the best African team. Hoo boy! As if terrible refereeing was not enough!
And finally, the Krispy Kreme company is rolling out (just in time for those holiday gatherings) a soda-flavored doughnut! Unless you live in the Carolinas, though, you are out of luck. The doughnut is infused with a popular soda beverage in that area named "Cheerwine" (see photo) and will be available during the month of July at 1,000 grocery and store outlets in North and South Carolina. This announcement comes amid the news reports that North Carolina has leaped (or staggered, as the case might be) up from 12th to 10th place as the most obese state in the United States.
Truth be told, I couldn't resist trying one. After all, I also rushed out to try KFC's Double Down a while back.
That's another reason I must stay home this holiday season.
Here in somewhat uneventful mid-America.
Where our Krispy Kreme was replaced with a Panera Bread.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

M.L.E. Home of the Top Dogs?

In what copuld potentially be a gastronomical upset, I have recently learned that Takeru Kobayashi might not be part of my annual Fourth of July celebration as he has been for nigh on to ten years. This stomach-churning news was given forth by George Shea, the president of Major League Eating. Yes, that's read it correctly. There IS a professional organization for those who stuff themselves like natural-case wieners for fame and money.
Every year on our national holiday in July, Natahn's Hot Dogs sponsors an eating contest on, where else, Coney Island. Kobayashi made it famous as he won for six consecutive years, beginning in 2001. This makes him the sausage equivalent of Lance Armstrong and the New York Yankees. Lately, however, his crown has been usurped by Joey Chestnut who has won the last three titles and is gnashing at the bit (so to speak) to win a fourth consecutive this year.
Now, I'm certain you're wondering why Kobayashi might opt out of this year's mano-a-mano chowdown showdown. Indigestion? Sprained spleen? Dog tired? (sorry). Nope...the fact is that he has thus far refused to commit to this bile-inducing event due to a breakdown in contract negotiations!
What???!!! He gets an appearance fee? He's paid to attend and eat free hot dogs? (BTW...I've had Nathan's at the ballpark in the Bronx, and Salmon's from Luxemburg are better)
I'm simply blown away to discover that there is such a thing as an appearance fee for the "stars." I thought only the "wieners" got paid. (sorry again)
Next question: How can I get in on this?

Monday, June 28, 2010

When The Sh*t Hits The Bookstore

I read Justin Halpern's book "Sh*t My Dad Says" this weekend, and it seems as if it was a tome that any of my kids could have written...or any of my previous students, for that matter. Of course, I was never as crude using the language as Halpern's dad appears to be, but I'm sure there are some memorable lines bubbling beneath the surface of their subconsciousnesses that would be worthwhile. And, of course, reading the text made me think of things my dad would say...sometimes when he was angry with me and sometimes when (I think) he was just putting me on. It is to my discredit that I never gave him enough credit for knowing what he knew as a graduate of Hard Knocks University and the 6th grade in public school in Teneha, Texas, during the Great Depression days.

"You crying? Stop that, or I'll give you something to cry about!" Well, to be perfectly honest, I already HAD something to cry's just that it wasn't important to the way he viewed life or my place in it.

"You know, you were supposed to be Mary Catherine instead of Darrell Eugene, and your mother was so disappointed that she tried to give you away in the hospital." I always hoped that he was putting me on, and Mom always denied it rather vehemently, but there was still a little doubt as the second (and last child) in the family.

"See? Now you know why you'll always like the first one better." This after I called to relate the birth of our second child while, at the same time, relaying an amusing anecdote about the older sibling. Even as an adult, I found this to be a bit more than disconcerting.

***Kids, if you're reading this, it is absolutely NOT true in my case (unless it is only the eldest who reads this).

"You should give up sports and playing games. After all, life is hard work, and the sooner you get used to it, the better off you'll be." I was in 8th grade at the time Dad uttered this one. I think he was tired of my making up excuse after excuse not to want to go with him to the body shop and sand cars endlessly. On the other hand, my older brother LOVED doing that sort of thing. HMMMM.
Anyway, Halpern's dad loved him dearly, said so on occasion, and came through when the young man needed help.
My dad did, too, though he often gave me sh*t about it.

"What do you mean, you don't know how to hang the gutter on your house so the water drains out? Didn't they teach you anything in college"?
No, Dad, they didn't. That's why I was lucky enough to have you.
I am seriously considering making a run at a book entitled "Sh*t My Kids Did ." There are a million stories there!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Country Mouse...City Mouse

She Actually Loves This

One of our granddaughter's favorite activities (next to eating blueberries) is swinging at the park. She endures the eight-block walk-festooned this time with lightning bugs on the way home-just to be able to away gently for as long as her parents or grandparents are willing to push her. I figured this would be a great family outing on a Saturday night in Chicago...uh, mostly.
It would seem that this particular park plays host to literally thousands of people, and most of them appeared to be there when we arrived, and all the swings were full! Fortunately, before our little girl got wind of that situation, a child slipped out, and the swing was ours. In spite of the incredible din caused by, literally, hundreds of little kids in a small area, our outing was preliminarily a success...until the fight started.
Among the hundreds of parents in attendance, two women began an argument that escalated quickly into a potential fistfight. These were large women, and it took at least five people to keep them separated as they dropped "M-F" bombs and personal invectives by the score...seriously, it was a movie scene from Andy Warhol. While they were screaming and cursing one another about doing" this and that to my kids" and "you don't tell me..." I noticed that nobody was watching her kids! As the fight swirled ever closer to our little darling on the swing, the four of us surrounded her for protection. One of the mothers began to swing her fists around her head threatening all sorts of physical violence (to which I almost laughed because a jab to the jaw would have felled her since she had her arms 'way over her head). Any REAL fighter would have decked her in the first 20 seconds, but I guess it was all about posturing since both were still there, sitting almost peacefully with only a few "M-F" bombs being dropped (now in the presence of their children they were trying so hard to protect).
It was a totally surrealistic scene, and I was glad to vamoose with the papoose shortly thereafter.
Living in a small town or small city has its advantages. So what if we can't get to SuperDawgs every week? We can get a swing at the aprk here anytime we want, and fights are rare.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No More Housework For Me

Doing My Sweetie A Favor

All the while I was employed full-time, I tried to help out around the house as much as I thought I could. I did the yard work, took care of the cars, ironed most of the time and watched the kids when available...but who am I kidding? I didn't do nearly as much as my sweetie did when it came to working around the home. Even though she also worked, sometimes part time and full time when the kids were in school all day, I will readily admit that she did far more than her fair share. In return, I did everything during the summer months, and now that I am the part-timer, I try to do it all as well...except the gardening. I know nothing about flowers, shrubs, bushes, etc. As it turns out, what I thought was a favor to my hard-working mate was actually doing her a disservice. As a result, I hereby vow to do nothing around the house...for her own good.
The BBC reports today on a study done by an organization called Cancer Research that found women who averaged between 16 and 17 hours a week doing housework stood a much better chance of avoiding breast cancer than those who worked, exercised or engaged in other leisure activities!
The study was done on 200,000 women from nine European countries and averaged 6.4 years per woman studying the incidents of breast cancer for those engaged in a variety of activities. While it has been long known that physical activity lessens any woman's risk of breast cancer due to hormonal and metabolic changes, the specific types of activity were never really considered...until now. And this study covers both pre- and post-menopausal women, so everyone gets a benefit.
Pre-menopausal women who did housework (cleaning, washing, dusting, cooking, picking up hubby's dirty underwear) averaged 30% fewer cases of breast cancer over the average 6+ years than women who worked outside the home, exercised, engaged in other activities or a combination of activities!
Post-menopausal women who emphasized household activities had 20% fewer cases of breast cancer than the other groups.
This is definitely ground-breaking information.
My sweetie is going to take off work early tomorrow to get all that cleaning done.
Too bad I did the laundry and mowed the lawn today.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is Butter Better or Is Oleo OK?

I doubt that I ever ate real butter when I was growing up. My mother used margarine...though we called it butter: it was yellow, spreadable and went with sugar on our lunch sandwiches (as opposed to lard which I hear some folks got). It was not an issue that caused me great concern until I moved to Wisconsin, a state in which margarine was undoubtedly the concoction of some demonic force in an attempt to bankrupt the dairy industry...or something.
Anyway, it became apparent to me that butter had a very strong following here in the Dairy State, and I never questioned its use in anything. But then, food never really stays in my mouth long enough to have me called an epicure. Thus, I ate what I was served and asked very few questions about the origin of the ingredients. But there are those with more discerning palates, it seems.
Our children ate a lot of macaroni and cheese as kids, but only the Kraft boxed kind. When we attempted to make the REAL thing, they balked at eating it. It would seem that preservatives and powdered ingredients were more tasty. Was there real butter in it? Probably. Maybe that was the problem, one that has affected others lately as well.
It seems siblings in Waterville, WAshington, had a spat about this very thing...and it ended up in court. The unnamed 21-year old male asked his sister, 17, whether the recipe she was using called for butter or margarine. Emotions churned, and the argument culminated in the woman attacking her brother with the serrated edge of a spatula. He called the police, and she was charged with fourth-degree assault...over mac and cheese.
But seriously, a serrated spatula? What kind of wuss would be threatened by that?
Besides, mac and cheese comes in a box, and had she taken that shortcut, the other cut might not have been necessary.
So, the argument still rages in Washington, at least, America's new dairyland.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Would Quit

Government is in deep doo doo, and the mid-term elections will prove it. Voters are upset and probably should be. State and city governments are cutting services 'way past the bone, virtually eliminating anything that remotely seems like it might help children or families or the poor and desperate. Class sizes are huge and getting bigger, and government offices are shutting down with regularity to save money. Meanwhile, the government keeps spending...mostly because it has to, I suspect. However, there have been some novel approaches to raising money.
California, at least for a while, experimented with legalized marijuana. I think that experiment has gone by the wayside at this point, but in a state with more bills than a flock of geese, it was worth a try. Now New York seems to be getting into creative mode.
The state has decided to add additional taxes on tobacco products, adding $1.60 to each pack of cigarettes purchased. This brings the price to a heft $9.20 per pack...and in New York City, the price is an exorbitant $11 per! WowW At two packs a day, that comes to...a heck of a lot! Smokeless users don't get off, either. The tax on that product will double to $2 per ounce. That's a lot just to get an extra hole in one's face.
Cigar smokers will see the tax on their product go up 75% (it's now at 46%). And, in what's sure to cause an uprising of sorts, the state will also try to get this tax from sales on Indian reservations, typically not subject to tax as a separate government. According to one native official, this amounts to "an act of war." Ouch.
The reason for this? State coffers are expected to fill to the tune of $440 million to be used for health care, cancer research and other social programs, including smoking cessation programs.
Seems to me that they'd be killing the golden goose with the last one, but, they'll have enough to worry about after angering the Native Americans.
Times are tough all over, and taxing addicts might be a great solution after all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gathering No Moss


If you've ever seen the movie "High Fidelity," you can appreciate how judgmental music aficionados are about what they consider to be the best "all-time," whether it be songs, artists, name it. By the way, it's a great movie even if you are not concerned with such things. I think it was John Cusack's best" tortured individual" character which he always seems to play. His sister Joan was good in a cameo as well, and I think it was the first time I ever saw Jack Black in a movie...presaging his role in "School of Rock."
Anyway, Rolling Stone magazine has always touted itself as the bible of rock and roll, and as such, often presents lists for discussion. Yet another one has surfaced. This time, it features the All-Time best top 40 songs. Looking at the list gives me pause.
For one thing, there are only four songs later than 1970 or so (by The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Nirvana). Elvis made the list only once...surely an oversight, and Led Zeppelin did likewise.
It wis a list dominated by Motown, soul and a couple of British Invasion bands with only the Beach Boys getting any significant props among American bands. You can see the entire list by visiting the LA Times website (or, supposedly,, but here are the top five:

#5. Respect by Aretha Franklin
#4. What's Going On? by Marvin Gaye
#3. Imagine by John Lennon
#2. Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones
#1. Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan

Needless to say, my top five would be somewhat different, as might yours be.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Today's Dad

The apron is a nice touch, but the reality is...

In case you haven't noticed, the 1950s are long gone. The women's movement of the 70s created a new order, as it were, and now we all share equally, right? Well, not so much. It would seem that the stress of fatherhood has become much greater than in the past, though it also might just be men's perception of how great those challenges are, according to a recent study done by Boston College.
The study, entitled "The New Dad" seems to point out that men are now suffering even greater stress about the work/family conundrum than women! For example, according to the study, in dual-earner couples, 59% of the men surveyed feel some level of work-life conflict while only 45% of women interviewed expressed that feeling. The underlying subtlety might involve a workplace environment which fails to recognize the pressures of becoming a new father and continues to presume that men in the workplace are largely unaffected by children: a decided "Leave It To Beaver" ideal.
Thus, the pressure facing men today is the same one that women have faced since WWII: how does one be BOTH a good worker and a good parent? This is especially poignant since the average couple works 63 hours per week, up from an average of 52.5 in the 1970s...and that's just away from home. Upon returning home, women complete an average of 28 hours a week on housekeeping chores while men record and average of 16 per week.
While men admittedly are doing more of the cooking, cleaning, etc. their perception is that they are doing a LOT more. Most of the men surveyed felt that they were completing at least half of the household duties...but that assertion was NOT backed up by females. OOPS!
Needless to say, instead of napping on the couch today, I was grocery shopping, helping to prepare dinner and digging up plants for least 75% of what work needed to be done, by my estimation.
Those other guys are just slackers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good For the Soul?


They say that confession is good for the soul. Therapists and churches have long held that cleansing one's conscience of a willfully wrong act can not only make amends but give the transgressor a significant boost, both in morale and in public opinion. Why else have all of the miscreants of the last five years come clean (excepting Barry Bonds, of course). Heck, even Ernie Els has apologized lately. They can and will be forgiven in time...not so Joe Barton, I fear. This is what Rep Barton from Texas had to say today to BP CEO Tony Hayward today:

"I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is - again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown," Barton said. "So I apologize."

Two things made me arch my eyebrows at that comment (only moments before he retracted it under threat by his own party of being stripped of a committee chairmanship).

1. There's no oil washing up on Texas beaches and no Texas fishing industry being destroyed.

2. Barton has accepted more money in campaign contributions from oil companies than ANY OTHER ELECTED POLITICIAN since 1990.

So long, Joe. It's been swell. I think Haliburton has a job waiting for you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's Not Just The Vuvuzelas

It's actually been a great time watching the FIFA World Cup this time around...mostly because I get to needle the coach whose office is next to mine. He is a former college soccer player who now coaches volleyball and claims to be a "citizen of the world" and an "avowed socialist." Truth be told, he is one of the most knowledgeable people I know on many fronts, and is willing to accept my goofy ideas without passing judgement. His undying devotion to a game most Americans find boring gives me all sorts of opportunities to get under his skin a little.
The proximity of our offices is such that every time he even comments about something during a match (always on in his office), I can hear it. I remarked today that a 1-0 match really should have been 10-9 if he wanted me to watch...and he growled at me. Likewise, he gets frustrated when reading all the complaints about the noise-making horns at this year's Cup. "People should just tune in to WWE and quit complaining," he said to me today. Wait until he finds out about Argentina.
It seems that almost every team travels with "all the comforts of home," and I suppose it's right that they should. After all, they will be spending (hopefully) more than a few weeks far away from home where the water/food might be suspect, and feeling at home is more than just taking your favorite pillow to a new hotel with you.
For example, while all teams travel with their familiar food choices, the Italians arrived with their own chefs; the Brazilians demanded that the water in the swimming pool be exactly ninety degrees; the Slovakians demanded electronic dartboards and ping pong tables( Dave & Busters in Praetoria?); the U.S. contingent arrived with plenty of dried fruit, Gatorade, video games and DVDs; the Mexican team arrived with its own bean dishes...and a Catholic priest. No fair!
But the Argentinians have pushed the "comfort" envelope just a bit too far. here is a list of what the team demanded of its South African hosts upon arrival:
1. A complete renovation of Coach Diego Maradonna's room which involved installing expensive toilet and bidet facilities.
2. All other rooms should be painted white.
3. Ten hot dishes to be served every day with at least fourteen different varieties of salads.
4. Three pasta sauces at every meal as well as three desserts, and a guarantee that South African barbecue be served at least once every three days.
5.Ice cream should be available at all times.
6. At least six PlayStation game consoles.

All of this makes the furor over those plastic horns seem silly.
And it is. I've got to agree with Coach Goodson on this one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hey, If HE Can't Make It...

Before the Apocalypse

I'm not a Notre Dame all. The school is like Duke: one loves it or hates it. There is no in between. And I cannot even provide a rational reason; the closest I can come is that any team nicknamed the "Irish" had better have green in their uniforms instead of blue and gold. Don't bother telling me WHY the colors are blue and gold...I know. It's just that there's a disconnect for me when I match the color and the name. And then there's the original "Touchdown Jesus," a statue on campus of Christ with upraised arms signaling not redemption or "come to me" but a score in football. Please! (Yes, I know that was not the original intent, but the school continues to portray it as such...At least it's still standing, unlike "Touchdown Jesus II"
Haven't heard of it? Well, you won't get a chance to see it any time soon because it disappeared in lightning, thunder and flames last night. Sign of the Apocalypse? Maybe.
This 62-foot high statue of Christ with upraised arms stood next to the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, and overlooked I94 just north of Cincinnati. Made of plastic foam and fiberglass covering a steel frame, the statue stood as inspiration, not only to church members, but also to members of the busy thoroughfare running through Ohio. Officially titled "King of Kings" but referred to as "Touchdown Jesus," the statue was erected in 2004 and was something like 40 feet around at its base. But apparently, God had seen enough or needed to make a statement because the statue was struck by lightning last night and burned to the ground.
Of course, people were moved by the experience: some of them scooping up bits of falling statue to take home as a relic while others waxed nostalgic about the great spiritual gift that had been taken away.
The pastor of the church vows to rebuild the statue (valued at $300,000) out of something fireproof next time.
How did the civil authorities react to the religious scene? Police issued citations to those who stopped to take pictures and scoop up debris.
Well, they WERE tying up the interstate.
I'm waiting to see if it's back up in three days.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Futbol Fanatics


Like many Americans, I'm not a big futbol fan (that would be soccer for most of us). I have gained a bit of appreciation over the last couple of years as I announced a few of the university's soccer matches as well as gotten to know coaches and skilled players at school. Thus, I have a greater appreciation of the chess match that is European football as opposed to the tug of war, smash-mouth american version. But the buzzing is unnerving.
If you've watched any of the FIFA World Cup on television you've noticed a few things: one of them, of course, was the inconceivable lack of focus on the part of the English keeper as he lets a ball that I could have stopped get by him for the only American goal. The other, of course, was the incessant noise that seems to be surrounding the microphones are not working properly. Actually, though, there is a logical explanation.
Unknown to me before this moment, the vuvuzela horn is the source for the buzz. Almost a meter long, the horn has no valves but is blown much like a trumpet, and a buzzing sound like a "raspberry" is emitted. Put thousands of these into thousands of hands of rabid futbol fans...and you get an annoying buzz.
FIFA had discussed the idea of banning the horns, but they have become an integral part of African soccer since the mid-1990s that the outcry would have been worse than the buzzing (which must be rather loud inside the stadium).
I guess it's better than having hooligans run amok.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

10 Things

Seriously...this is 'way more interesting than anything I could possibly have to say.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the Cheap


With the average cost of a wedding topping out at slightly more than $28,000 it's nice to know that not everyone is falling for the hype. There are plenty of folks out there with an entrepreneurial spirit willing to think out of the box...or, in this case, off the roll.And maybe it's merely proof that the internet has spawned websites for just about everything that we find there's one called cheap-chic-weddings. com which provides options of fashion for those fiscally challenged or just unwilling to pay exorbitant prices in an era where the chances are 50/50 at best.
Galit Zeiermann is one such individual. Flushed with excitement, she accepted the cheap-yet-chic challenge offered by the website and produced this lovely wedding gown which won her first place in the annual "Toilet Paper Wedding Dress" contest, sponsored for the 6th time. For her efforts at wiping out the competition, the winner gets $1,000 (which should enable her to buy something a bit less water-resistant. "But," I hear you say, "will she actually wear this on her wedding day"?
I'm uncertain, but the Charmin' look she's created (complete with paper bird on her shoulder) will make a real hit with her brawny lad if she does.
Enough already...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sorry, But...

Nothing stings like rejection. It saps a bit of confidence every time it happens, no matter how self-assured we are or how many rationalizations we can make for the cast-off. Back when credit cards required references and a security clearance, I was rejected for a card. ouch. Of course, there are a lot more painful types of rejections today: the company softball team, relationships (both physical and emotional), occupational possibilities, and even babies who won't stop crying.
Somehow, it always seems like we have been exposed as a sham when these "don't call us, we'll call you" moments come our way. Perhaps the most painful part is our self-assurance of success before the door is slammed in our faces. Having finished a great interview only to realize that we were the only ones to think it was great...
As I get older, though, I realize that rejection is a constant in life. We seldom get exactly what we want from others when we want it. What makes us pick ourselves up and get back at it, trying to avoid whatever it was that caused our initial rejection?
If I knew, I'd write a book.
Oh yeah, I tried that got rejected by ten publishers.
Don't call us...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Getting It Off Your Chest

"Everybody's sorry about something."

Maybe it's due to the fact that there is more media attention these days: too many reporters and not enough news...too many photographers and too little beauty left that has not been photographed. Whatever it is, more and more of "us" have been caught with our pants down, so to speak (though some literally). As a result, the latest fashion seems to be the public apology. You know the drill: "I'm sorry for my indiscretions and the hurt I caused my family. We ask for privacy in this time so we can rebuild our relationships...yada, yada, yada." It's a daily occurrence in news media everywhere. If it's not a White House reporter apologizing for telling Jews to go back to Germany or Poland, it's the president asking amends for wanting to "kick somebody's ass" for the oil spill in the Gulf. Tiger Woods. Jesse James? old news already there are a LOT more in line to submit to a personal admission of frailty. Me? I understand that Americans are very forgiving, but seriously, do we ALL need to be able to express that sorrow for misdeeds long past which have bothered us ever since? It would seem so.
The latest issue of a national publication lists three internet sites on which anyone can post a most sincere apology for wrongs committed either in the past or recently! Seriously? I'm going to go to the internet and write a groveling paragraph about what a jerk I was and beg forgiveness from someone from the past? Seriously? Apparently, though, many do.

Traffic on three sites has gone up 66% in three years, according to Allan Fallow, writing in AARP Magazine. What's more, the number of apologies from folks over 55 has gone up 172% in that time and continues to rise. Apparently, Boomers have a good deal to be sorry for what with having lived through the 60s and all.
Out of curiosity, I visited to check it out. the site eases my concerns when it posts the following: " You'll feel less bad about your own deeds" when you read the apologies on this site...and there are hundreds, if not thousands to read. Visitors can even vote for the best (heartfelt, outrageous) apology of the week in addition to clearing their own consciences by posting a mea culpa of their own. Of course, there are rules:
Nobody is allowed to use his or her entire name...first name, initials or descriptions only. Posts which contain ethnic, racial or any other kind of slurs will be removed, and those who post must attest that they are truly the individual posting and not just writing one for someone else...which took my idea of posting one for van der Sloot. Anyway, the site allows no commercial messages or spam...just smarmy apologies.
Other sites include (on which you can order "I'm sorry" bracelets" as something of a pre-emptive measure, knowing you'll screw up eventually...better get a bunch!) and, and I would suspect there are even more sites available for you to post and rid yourself of guilt.
Me? I'm going to die with my sins and hope everyone is in a forgiving mood later.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Falling Farther Behind


I'm at serious risk of being left behind...well, actually, further the race to have every bit of minutiae at my fingertips. The pace of being outdistanced picks up considerably on June 24th. What happens then? The 4th generation iPhone goes on sale. It's not that I will be tempted to buy one or feel hopelessly outmoded as the only one on my block without one. It's just that communication will take on a whole new meaning...and just when I approached the cutting edge by availing myself to the latest iMac!
I love the internet. I love reading seven newspapers a day; I love getting information about the sporting world without having to wait until SportsCenter or wade through insufferable commercials dealing with what's Australian for "beer." Keeping in touch via email and social networking is nice as well since I;m generally something of a loner. Even having the opportunity to blog is cool since the 722 previous posts would have taken up a great deal of room in notebooks stored in the basement. But, there are some drawbacks that I find somewhat annoying, and they all have to do with the basic idea of a phone.
I don't WANT people to be able to contact me every minute of the day. I don't think I need to know what's going on in the world at this very second; and I especially don't want to try to juggle driving a car and feeling that I need to discuss something with a caller. I do want to be in contact with my students and my family; the former more so because they refuse to answer email in any kind of timely manner, and the latter because they would be the only ones from whom "immediate" information would be desirable. But that's it. I don't want the internet on my phone...I don't want a gazillion apps on my phone to while away the time I could be using in a more constructive manner, and I need to know that if I stand up suddenly, dropping my phone in the toilet, I won't be losing hundreds of dollars. As a result, the new iPhone is not in my future.
Of course, it's an amazing piece of technology. A stainless steel and glass mechanism, it is 24% thinner than even the previous models with an improved display. It has two video cameras which allow for video chats, and it even has a flash that will stay lighted during a video shoot. The resolution is high-definition so I can stream all sorts of selections from Netflix and a host of other sources.'s definitely not cheap. At $299 for the 32GB model and $199 for the 16GB model, it is decidedly out of my price range since all I want it to do is let me talk with and send text messages to other people. That's it.
Would I love to have the video chat option to chat with the grandkids? Yes, though it would require them to have the phone as well. I use iChat frequently with my granddaughter, and it's definitely a way to keep in touch. But I hardly think every young child will be walking around with a personal iPhone.
Back in my day...
Oh, never mind. I'll just dodder off and email somebody about it.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Just Old Enough...But Not Too Old

The sun was shining a bit today after several days of rain helped my lawn perk up a bit; naturally, I was in the mood for some good news. I just didn't expect that news to come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The news, though, is heartening...I have a few more good years left!
According to statistics compiled by the center, middle-aged suicides led the list of groups who most ended their own lives in 2007. In fact, that was the second year in a row that people in this country aged 45-54 led all groups in the do-itself-in contest. Usually, the "leaders" in that particular category are over the age of 80. This bodes well for my immediate future: I have passed the most dangerous age range and have many years to go before hitting the next one! Here are the latest statistics:
During 2007, the most recent year for which the statistics have been tabulated, the suicide rates were highest for the aforementioned 45-54 age group with 17.6 people per 100,000 doing themselves in. Next was the 75-84 year-olds who offed themselves at a rate of 16.4 per 100,000; Next up was the 35-44 age cohort, pushing up their own daisies at a rate of 16.3 per 100,000 individuals. Why the upswing for boomers?
It seems that, in addition to a greater rate of depression, there is also a trend of easier access to weapons (thank you, NRA) and prescription drugs, and problems most often associated with suicides tend to be related to health, jobs, relationships and finance (you think?) Gee, I would never have guessed.
Also in stating the obvious, men have a higher rate of violent self-induced death than women, often favoring guns, and 90% of those who commit crimes against their person are adjudged to have a mental disease.
Finally, Alaska Native Americans, non-Hispanic whites and veterans seem to have a greater chance of giving in to the urge to do away with themselves, as more than half of the 50,000 deaths from violence-related injuries are of the suicide variety.
So, you can see why I am relieved...other than what might be a slight mental illness, I belong to none of these groups that is at risk.
That means I'll have my 15-year mortgage paid off!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Avoid At All Costs!

How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?

The infamous BP oil gusher is one of the most devastating natural disasters we've ever had. I'm not telling you anything new; and, of course, there's plenty of blame to go around in addition to BP. The lives of everyone and everything along the Gulf Coast may be destroyed for years and years to come. Heck, we're still talking about the Exxon Valdez spill of how long ago? This got me to thinking about places where the devastation is ongoing yet little is made of it. Sure, we know China is polluting the earth on an unheard-of scale, but more on that later. We are killing ourselves here every day yet can't seem to control ourselves, if evidence from the American Lung Association is to be believed. This group has undertaken the task of deciding which cities in America are the most polluted and in which of them are we dying every day.
The study was based on three areas of ficus: 1. the number of days per year on which the ozone level exceeds a healthy level 2. the places with the highest level of short-term particle pollution and 3. The locations which had the highest level of year-round particle pollution. Here's a summary of the top five in each category, according to the A.L.A.

CATEGORY #1: Number of "worst ozone" days per year. An acceptable number is 7

#5 Sacramento, CA: 48 days
#4 Fresno?Madera, CA: 66 days
#3 Visalia/Porterfield, CA: 110 days
#2 Bakersfield, CA: 115 days
#1: Los Angeles: 141 days

CATEGORY #2: Number of "worst short-term" pollution days per year. An acceptable number is 3

#5 Birmingham, AL: 25 days
#4 Los Angeles: 27 days
#3 Pittsburgh: 45 days
#2 Fresno, CA: 53 days
#1 Bakersfield, CA 55 days

CATEGORY #3: Worst year-round air. An "acceptable"number of micrograms per cubic meter of air is below 15

#5 Pittsburg: 18.3micrograms per cubic meter of air
#4 Visalia, CA: 19.7 micrograms per cubic meter of air
#3 Los Angeles: 19.7 micrograms per cubic meter of air
#2 Bakersfield, CA: 21.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air
#1 Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale AZ: 21.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air

Thus, it is obvious that we should avoid California altogether, especially since the lung association reports that 18,000 people die prematurely every year in California as a result of the pollution. Yet, as bad as those numbers are, we are mere posers compared to the folks in China.
According to a World Bank survey at the time of the last olympics in Beijing, 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are located in China...a country trying to move from water buffalo farming to microchips manufacturer to the world (never mind all those people committing suicide int he Chinese factories) in a generation...and doing so at the expense of, well, everyone; this is especially true when you consider that particulate matter from China has already begun to reach the West Coast of the U.S. No wonder California is dying. But, I hear you ask, which is the MOST polluted city, and how bad is it, really?
According to the World Bank study, the most polluted place on this planet is a coal mining city in the Shanxi Province named Linfen. The air is literally visible every moment of the day (which is shortened considerably by an early sunset as the sun disappears behind smog banks. Living and breathing in Linfen is akin to smoking three packs of cigarettes a day...every day of your life! Can you say "cough, cough, hack, hack"?
And remember, anything that gets to the West Coast can also reach you and me.
And you thought the soon-to-be-exorbitant price of shrimp was a tribulation?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

So Long, Junior!

I am normally not the kind of person to lionize other people for their sports accomplishments. Scientists, environmentalists, authors, yes, but sports figures...not so much. Perhaps that idea gave way when my boyhood idol Mickey Mantle turned out to be a womanizing alcoholic who, some say, was given preferential treatment for a kidney transplant which ultimately did not prolong his life. The only real quote from my boyhood idol that I repeat to this day is 'If I'd have known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."
Today's entitled sports starts get nothing from me. I'll admit that I have some admiration for Lance Armstrong...but less because he's won the Tour de France so often as because he has beaten cancer and continues to work for its ultimate eradication. He's the exception, though. However, I will readily admit that there are professional athletes making a gazillion dollars who are pillars of society and a credit to humanity...though we only hear about those who run afoul of every moral and legal code possible then make a travesty of the result. The exception to the rule is Ken Griffey, Jr. whose biggest crime against humanity was wearing a baseball hat backwards and expressing a real joy for playing a game that he made look ridiculously easy.
Griffey retired tonight at age 40 when it was apparent that he wasn't going to play enough to be even remotely effective. He bowed out the way he played the game: with grace and humility. There was never a hint of scandal...he remains faithful to his family and continues to show humility at all times. A sure Hall-of-Famer, he ended his career after 22 seasons, and it's sad to see him go. His impact cannot be measured.
At this point, I have over a hundred of his baseball cards, a signed baseball and more Mariners paraphernalia than I care to keep stored in the basement: he was one of my children's favorite players, and he spent nearly every cent he could scrape together on Griffey items. In eighth grade, he even got Griffey's number 24 cut into his hair at the barber's...which necessitated some earnest dad bluster to keep him in grade school until it grew out. Perhaps nuns just have no sense of humor.
As is has for all of us, age has caught up to Junior, but I know one young man who will always be able to feel proud that his hero maintained his heroism until the very end. I might even plan to take my son to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown in five years.
Fathers like me appreciate role models who live up to the honor of being one.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

"D'oh" Not a Deer, A Female Deer...


I watch very little television, not because I think it's aimed at a five-year-old mentality or that it's simply mindless repetition of one good idea, or even because I cannot figure out how to work my TiVo. No, truth is, I watch very little television because I have too much to do. You know how retired people always say, "I have so much to do that I don't know how I did all of it BEFORE retired."? Well, that's partly true in my case. I spend a lot of time reading newspapers and visiting internet websites...for the articles NOT for the pictures. I generally read at least two books a week in addition to all the textbook reading I am allowed to do in order to facilitate matters for my, for example, I got to explain in student terms the process of sensory integration accomplished by the brain in order to create movement. But I do watch a movie most Friday nights down in the Love Shack (A.K.A. the "Mazda Miata" with carpeting, a bathroom, ping pong table, comfy furniture and a big screen TV) so I have some kind of idea of the entertainment business. I will occasionally watch Chelsea Lately because I think women are funnier than men, but I had to admit a lack of pop culture knowledge when Entertainment Weekly came out with its list of the most popular TV and film characters from the last 20 years.
To be fair to me, I had heard of all of them and have a basic idea of why each was famous, but sadly, I had to admit that I had only been personally involved with three of that I mean I've actually watched them on television or at the movies.
First, the list, and then you can guess which ones I am familiar with enough to have actually spent time watching their exploits.
For the sake of brevity, I will note the top ten in reverse order, beginning with the 10th most popular character:

10. SpongeBob Squarepants
9. Carrie Bradshaw (from Sex and the City)
8. Hannibal Lecter
7. Edward Scissorshands
6. Rachel (from Friends)
5. The Joker (Heath Ledger version, not the Ceasar Romero or Jack Nicholson versions)
4. Tony Soprano
3. Buffy the Vampire Eradicator
2. Harry Potter
1. Homer Simpson

How about you? Which ones can you claim to have actually watched? My pitiful list included numbers 1,2 and 10. That's it.
Does it count that I have seen about a zillion Simpsons' episodes?
Yeah, I thought not.